Lawrence J. "Lornie" Merkle
Larry was born on December 2, 1916 in Tacoma, WA and passed away at the age of 92 on April 22, 2009.
Lornie attended Holy Rosary and Visitation schools and graduated from Bellarmine in 1934 where he participated in baseball, basketball, football and tennis. He was one of the City's best and the #1 man on Bellarmine's first-ever tennis team and was the City of Tacoma's Junior tennis champion in both singles and doubles. He continued playing tennis well into his 80's.
Included among his memories, he caught the winning touchdown pass in Bellarmine's 6-0 win over Stadium in midget league football. In 1933 he was named the Most Valuable Player in the Tacoma Junior City Baseball League. He was elected President of the Tacoma Umpires Association in 1951. From 1956 thru 1958 he was selected by the Washington Athletic Association to conduct officiating clinics throughout the State of Washington.
Following high school he went to work at the Northern Pacific Shops as an apprentice in the freight care department. Later he spent some time as a rigger at the Tacoma Shipyards during WWII. He also spent a short period of time with the City of Tacoma Fire Department until they were called out to a fire in the middle of a televised major football game that he was intently watching. That was when he decided to quite that career. He joined the Tacoma Times as a district manager in 1946 and then went to work for The Tacoma News Tribune in 1950 after a year at Nalley's as a salesman.
Merkle spent 21 years as a District Manager at The Tacoma News Tribune working with young people which he enjoyed immensely. The next 10 years were spent there as Circulation Manager before retiring in May of 1981 with a total of 31 years of service.
Despite his many jobs, he maintained an active role in sports and played second base for the Pacific Match Company baseball team in 1934, the South Tacoma Athletic Club baseball team followed by the Model Lumber Company baseball team in 1937, Olympic Ice Cream in the City League, the Washington State Hospital and Olympia Senators teams of the Northwest League, and for the South Tacoma Pines in 1953.
Known for his wit and humor, Lornie was equally active in basketball and suited up for the Visitation Athletic Club in 1936, Anders Florists, the Pierce County League champion Tacoma Chillas of 1940-they were Pierce County champions and played in the 11th annual AAU basketball tournament at the University of Washington. He played for the Pacific Mutual Fuelers who represented Tacoma at the Northwest AAU basketball tournament in 1941, and he also played against the Harlem Globetrotters as a member of the Tacoma All Stars.
"Lornie's" nickname was "Shorty" but he wasn't short on ability or judgment which is why he refereed ten years in the Pac-9 Conference (now Pac-10) and was called on to umpire in the Pacific Coast League at both Cheney Stadium and Sick's Stadium. He also worked two national fastpitch tournaments, one in Miami in 1949 and the other in Seattle in 1973. He worked exhibition games for the Harlem Globetrotters, the National Professional League All Stars, and the National Industrial Basketball League.
He was one of the top high school and college basketball officials in the area and retired from officiating in 1976 after 40 years and 4,500 games on the fields and courts. His last game of officiating was on December 30, 1976--Wilson High School vs. Federal Way. Lornie was one of the few that officiated all three sports--football, basketball, and baseball.
He was a member of the ASA Northwest Regional Softball Hall of Fame, the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Baseball-Softball Oldtimers Hall of Fame. He is a past recipient of the WIAA Meritorious Service award and the WSSAAA's Honor Award.
He was a former longtime member of the Tacoma Golf and Country Club and a hole-in-one recipient. His favorite participating sports in his later years were confined to golf and tennis both of which he thoroughly enjoyed and continued to be a fierce competitor. He missed golfing, tennis, and being able to drive when he began to lose his eyesight due to macular degeneration He was an active participating member of St. Patrick's Catholic Church.
He was predeceased by his parents, Matthew and Alice Merkle. Survivors include a son, Larry F. Merkle of Palm Springs, CA; a brother Matthew Merkle of Springfield, Virginia; nieces Dr. Christine Merkle of Boston College, Maureen Merkle of Virginia, nephews Brian Merkle of Florida and Phillip Merkle of Arizona, as well as longtime beloved friend and companion Ann H. Marinkovich of Tacoma.